Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Back on patch

An evening that I was not working and the wife had friends over coincided last night, so it was with a hop skip and a jump, I took the opportunity to avoid a live episode of loose women convening in my living room to get in a few hours patch birding.

It was around half past 6 I pulled up to the car park at Farlington Marshes. The sun was low but still warm and there was a 15-20kmph NNE wind. The tide was out so I decided to visit the lake last for any waders coming in to roost at dusk, this meant that I started in the scrub area just inside the reserve. There is one thing that bothers me about Farlington, one massive 6 lane thing..... The M27! The incessant roaring of cars, trucks and general traffic is deafening, and hinders ones audible appreciation of all things avian, in English I could here bugger all bird calls. 2 species manage to hold their own over the din.... Cetti's Warbler with their explosive song and good ol' Jenny Wren with the staccato machine gun rattle. The further into the scrub you go and the further from the road, you start to hear more and more. Robins are perched atop on every bush, Blue Tits are chasing each other and busying themselves with food collection (there is a very healthy population of Blue Tits on the Marsh thanks to the nest boxes hidden all round). There are 2 particular species I felt were conspicuous by their absence. Bardsey and Portland Observatories have both been reporting good numbers of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs during ringing sessions, Farlington on Monday evening could boast 1 singing bird of each species with neither actually being seen. This has reflected our ringing numbers on the Marsh as well, with very few migrants coming through as yet. Singles of Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff have made up the migrant species caught in recent weeks. Only time will explain this lack of birds at Farlington.

After the scrub I came out at the stream, where there were a good head of Black Headed Gull, I scanned the flock for other Larus species and picked out 2 cracking summer plumaged Med Gulls. Langstone Harbour has been very successful for breeding of Med Gulls over the years, with numbers increasing year on year. Haylings Oyster Beds being well worth a visit around Mid May/June time. Other birds on the stream included Coot (2 on nests), Snipe, Moorhen, Lapwing, Grey Heron, and the usual duck species. Quite dramatically all the BHGulls took off together and it soon became apparent that a Great Black Backed Gull had come in over the reed bed. The BHG's mobbed the GBB showing that size has no bearing on the mob mentality and soon saw it off. No doubt these raids will increase in frequency as the chicks start to hatch and fledge. Down by the hut the Bearded Tits showed well as did Reed Bunting. Although a few Observatories have reported Reed Warblers in their ringing nets, there were no obvious singing birds at the Marshes last night.

The Stream
The fields around Farlington are filled with wheeling Lapwing, and their frankly eerie display call. Many birds are already on nests and have been for some time so it will not be long before we are seeing chicks and fledglings there either. In the harbour were a few Red Breasted Mergansers and Black Necked Grebes looking resplendent in their breeding plumage. I scanned the cattle herds for any migrant Yellow Wags but to no avail. The deeps held the usual Shelduck, Shoveler, Mallards, Gadwall etc... and the point field had Meadow Pipits, Sky Larks, Dunnock, Cettis Warbler, Robin, Green Finches, Linnet and a single singing Sedge Warbler.

I made my way around the sea wall, picking up Little Egret, Oystercatcher and Curlew as I did, when I reached the lake there was a nice flock of Redshank all piping away.

The Lake

Godwit in summer plumage
Some very splendid looking Black Tailed Godwits, just coming into breeding plumage. Up the back skirting the reeds was a Snipe and a Grey Heron. A Peregrine shot in from the South across the fields sending all the birds on the lake up, the Redshanks pipes became so loud they hurt my ears. On this occasion the Peregrine pull up unsuccessful.

The sun had dropped right down as I left the lake and wandered back to the car.


As I was leaving I noticed the tell tale tents made by black tailed moth caterpillars. These are not in the numbers they were a couple of years ago, but only recently was I talking about these with Jason and Duncan and it was commented on regarding their absence so far this year.

All in all it was very pleasant to be out birding again, something that I have truly missed with such a hectic lifestyle at present. I will be taking every opportunity possible over the coming months to get out and bird.       

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